Seniors need to become better educated on sex as a new study shows the rates of sexually transmitted infections are rising rapidly in people over 50 who are popping erectile dysfunction drugs, according to the executive director of AIDS Moncton.

A recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows that the number of people over 50 who are being diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection is rising in an alarming fashion.

Debby Warren, executive director of SIDA/AIDS Moncton, said a lack of education geared to that age demographic is helping to fuel a silent epidemic.

'Older people are doing it, having sex, and because they don't receive the education and knowledge ... they're certainly opening themselves up to sexually transmitted infections.'— Debby Warren, executive director of SIDA/AIDS Moncton

While no one wants to talk about sex in their 50s, Warren said people are aging healthier and taking on new partners after a death or divorce.

Further fuelling the problem, she said, is the increase in popularity of erectile dysfunction medication, such as Viagra.

"Older people are doing it, having sex, and because they don't receive the education and knowledge, while they may not get pregnant, they're certainly opening themselves up to sexually transmitted infections," Warren said.

"And that's starting to be reflected in the data that's being collected, not just in Canada, but the U.K. and in the United States."

The study in the Annals of Internal Medicine released this week showed men who used erectile dysfunction drugs have two times higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV.

"Counselling about safe sexual practices and screening for STDs should accompany the prescription of ED drugs," the authors concluded.

'Ramp up' education

Warren called the rise in sexually transmitted diseases among older people a silent epidemic.

Warren is also calling for more information on safe sex practices aimed at seniors.

'I think the challenge, though, would be to get people to attend and to join us in those sessions.'— Christine Kennedy Babineau, Seniors' Information Centre in Moncton

"It's a lot of education that needs to take place and these stats are clearly showing, when you have like, 88 per cent of males accounting for gonorrhea cases and over a 166 per cent increase in a population going into their 50s and 60s, you've got to say, we need to ramp up some education here," Warren said.

So far in the southeastern New Brunswick city there aren't many options open for seniors looking for sex education.

Christine Kennedy-Babineau, the co-ordinator of the Seniors' Information Centre in Moncton, said there are no sexual health classes set up now.

Kennedy-Babineau said her organization is open to having information sessions about the issue, but she said it would be important to consider how to deliver the course.

"I think the challenge, though, would be to get people to attend and to join us in those sessions," Kennedy-Babineau said.

"Ideally, I think we'd have to tack them onto another health-related subject to begin with, to open that discussion and to have a dialogue on it. But to have a specific sex-ed class geared to seniors, I don't know how open people would be."

However, Kennedy-Babineau said society must find a way to have an open discussion with people in their 50s to provide them with the right information to make safe choices.